Photo of elderly man at late wife’s memorial during wedding goes viral

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An elderly widow, who sat with his late wife’s memorial during his granddaughter’s wedding, didn’t know “his little act of love” was so public.

Sahrah Elswick, 20, a stay-at-home mother in West Virginia, tweeted a photo of her 71-year-old grandfather, Billy Gray, sitting with his lunch at a homemade memorial for his late wife Barbara, at Elswick’s July 6 wedding in Alderson, West Virginia.

“Pawpaw sat and ate with mawmaw today at my wedding,” Elswick wrote on Twitter Sunday, sharing the nostalgic photo, which received 19,000 shares and 175,000 likes.

Two years ago, Barbara, then 64, passed away from colon cancer. “It was very unexpected,” Elswick tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She was the kindest and sweetest soul I have ever known — she was so proud to be a mom and grandma.”

Gray first met his wife while collecting trash in their Alderson neighborhood. She had been standing outside her home when Gray passed by on his route, and he thought she was beautiful, says Elswick. They were married for 45 years.

Billy and Barbara Grey of Alderson, West Virginia were married for 45 years before Barbara’s death from colon cancer at age 64. (Photo: Courtesy of Sahrah Elswick)

“They were the textbook definition of pure, unconditional love,” Elswich tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They always stuck together and they were so happy — always joking around and making each other laugh.”

Elswick says she knew her “best friend would be watching from Heaven” and decided to decorate a chair with photos of “Mawmaw” and a framed sign that read, “We know you would be here today if heaven wasn’t so far away.”

The bride says she didn’t realize that her grandfather was sitting at the memorial, until her friend mentioned it. “I immediately burst into tears,” Elswick tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It just blew me away.”

Gray explained to his granddaughter, “I wanted to sit with her.”

While Gray “doesn’t completely understand the internet,” he knows he went viral, says Elswick. “He never meant for his little act of love to get so much attention.”

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